Conservatives Now and in 1865

Conservatives Now and in 1865Jonathan Chait wrote a very good article yesterday, Republicans Confuse the Electoral College With “the American People.” For me, it highlights the fact that conservatives never change. In it, he talks about an article in The Federalist by Josiah Peterson, No, Jesse Jackson, the Electoral College Isn’t Racist. Forget for now the fact that Jackson never said that the electoral college was racist. Let’s just look at Peterson as a fine example of a conservative thinker.

In the article he claims that the Three-Fifths Clause of the US Constitution was intended to give Southern States less power. I’ve heard this argument from conservatives many times in the past. But it turns reality upside down.

The truth is that slave owners treated slaves as property. They weren’t some kind of special property that had rights. They were literally seen the same way that an ox or a cart were seen. So the idea of giving southern states political representation for slaves is the same as giving them political representation for the number of horses they had. These states wanted slaves to be property when it suited them and not property when it suited them.

The slave states insisted upon the Three-Fifths Clause in order to allow the Constitution to be ratified. But there was never any justification for it other than conservatives whining and wanting special rules for themselves.

Special Rules for Conservatives After the Civil War

You may remember that towards the end of the Civil War, when it was clear they had lost the war, the South wanted to give up. But they wanted to be able to keep their slaves. In other words, they wanted the right to wage a civil war so that they could have their own country free to treat human beings as slaves. And then when they failed at that, they wanted things to go back to exactly the way that they were — to pretend that they hadn’t started a war. (Note: they pretty much got that anyway with the help of President Andrew Johnson and other like-minded racists.)

This is entirely typical of conservatives today. They want special rules. It’s interesting to look at the electoral college system. Because conservatives used to be against it. But now that they have won two presidential elections where they lost the popular vote, they think that it is absolutely essential that we keep it.

Conservatives Want It All

I’ve often noted that conservatives only care about power. This is why they destroy norms any time things do not go the way they want them to. If they are legally allowed to do something, they will do it. (Note that this is the way that corporations deal with taxes. If the tax code allows them to write off $500 for something, they will always write off $500 for it. An individual will generally write off quite a bit less. That’s because individuals have some sense of shame — at least the non-psychotic ones do.)

This belief in power only really comes down to this idea that there are special rules for them. They have no sense of community. Think of Margaret Thatcher and her idea that society didn’t actually exist. All that matters is them and their desires. And if the society has to be destroyed because of that, so be it.

We saw this when conservatives owned people, and we see it today. And if there were suddenly a repeal of the 13th Amendment, conservatives would have no problem owning people today.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

6 thoughts on “Conservatives Now and in 1865

  1. Of course, back then it was the Democrats that were conservative treasonous racists, and the Republicans who opposed slavery. JFK’s civil rights agenda and Nixon’s Southern Strategy changed everything.

    > conservatives whining and wanting special rules for themselves.

    The GOP’s new motto!

    • Absolutely right about the new motto. Conservative leaders have a persecution complex that never lets up, no matter how much power they accrue. I honestly suspect that’s part of their appeal. The simple tone of “they’re out to get us, they demand special rights” resonates with many voters who (rightly) feel screwed by their employers, their insurance companies, credit cards, etc. Just try to get any company to honor a “lifetime warranty” on a product. It’s hours of phone hell. And we have to deal with this garbage on so many fronts these days. Leaders who scream “it’s unfair!” will emotionally connect, even if their proposals are hugely destructive.

      The truly masterful move by Rebuplicans was running against government — not government corruption, or wasteful programs (they don’t mind either so long as money is funneled into the right offshore accounts), but the idea of government as incompetent by definition. Too much paperwork and bureaucracy. So when many people experience the phone hell jerk-around, they assume it’s due to “all those dang government regulations,” not the natural propensity of capitalism to find ways of treating people terribly for profit.

      This confusion has been spread so effectively, a vast number of Americans have no concept that government can provide restrictions on horrid corporate behavior. They simply associate tedious bureaucratic nightmares with “government” and do not realize it’s deregulation, not overegulation, which causes this. Getting rid of “frivolous lawsuits” doesn’t stop corporations from spending gazoodles of our tax dollars suing each other in public courts over patent issues. It just means that nowadays, when you so much as buy a phone, you’re forced to scroll past 20 pages of legal disclaimers which insure that if the phone catches fire, you can’t sue the company. And so on and so forth, you know the drill.

  2. republicans ran against government saying that government does not work to get elected and set to mess things up to prove it doesn’t work.
    Like with voter fraud at the polls. One republican woman I think in Las Vegas either voted in two districts or tried to and got caught. So now republicans know that people are doing it because they do it!!

    • Yes. The only cases I know of systemic voter fraud were committed by Republicans. In as much as they really believe it, it is projection. As for the rest, Thomas Frank discussed it in The Wrecking Crew. It’s an obvious con. Yet voters fall for time and again.

  3. This reminds me of something I’ve been seeing a lot of here in northwestern Pennsylvania since before Trump even won the primary: the confederate flag. Now I understand southern people clinging to it, even though it’s a clear and potent symbol of the most vile aspects of humanity. They can at least claim that they’re attempting to preserve history or celebrate their heritage, although I don’t buy those excuses in the slightest. Ultimately, however, they have established norms and tradition with which to cite. The Erie area where I live isn’t exactly a liberal stronghold, but whatever the case it is solidly a Yankee town. This is the north, and brandishing a confederate flag, whether it’s on a bumper sticker or two full sized flags mounted on the back of a pickup cab (yes, I see that fairly regularly), is nothing but an extroverted, shameless expression of bigotry. To argue otherwise here would be as ridiculous as voting for Trump because he represents the plight of the American worker.

    What about you, Frank? See this at all out West?

    • Funny — I was just in Erie a few weeks ago. Stayed at what was pretty much my favorite-ever cheapie motel. The staff were so nice, we cancelled our scheduled motel for the following night and stayed in Erie again. (Quality Inn in Fairview, BTW. Totally not fancy. Terrific staff. They whipped up food for us late, and they have a bar. These are the important things)

      I think a lot of regional / class standards are pretty much a matter of fitting in. I’ve gotten jobs because I mentioned liberal tastes to prospective employers who had a liberal bent, and gotten fired because I couldn’t convincingly pretend to have vile sexist / racist opinions to conservative supervisors / co-workers.

      Unless you’re in a position of power, you fit in or you’re isolated. That goes for tastes, politics, most of everything. And what determines “the norm” depends on a gazillion factors; history of slavery, segregation, union strength, local religions, lots of things. And of course there are different variations within every region, although some generalizations can be made. An LA surfer bro would always feel out of place in the Cleveland/Erie/Buffalo region and vice versa. (I am more comfortable in your neck of the woods, myself, although to each their own.)

      Myself, I am a solid super-lefty. However, I’m probably only super-lefty because I never fit in anywhere. Had I fit into a largely conservative / Confederate culture, I probably would have embraced those values. Had I fit into a centrist Democrat, Clinton-esque office culture, I probably would have embraced those values.

      So while I definitely think certain values are deeply mistaken and wrong, I rarely see myself as being better than others who have those values. I merely wish they did not.

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